Ring Road corruption probe hits snag

Sources said that the former Rawalpindi commissioner was made a scapegoat in the fight for ascendancy


Imran Asghar May 13, 2021
Map shows the new alignment of the proposed Rawalpindi Ring Road Project. PHOTO: EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI:

The probe into the alleged corruption in the Rawalpindi Ring Road project has come under a cloud as two out of three members of the fact-finding committee have denied the corruption allegations levelled against sacked Rawalpindi commissioner Muhammad Mehmood.

Sources said that the former Rawalpindi commissioner was made a scapegoat in the fight for ascendancy between much bigger players who prefer to operate from behind the scenes. The same quarters said the former official was removed without being heard. It is also learnt that the fact-finding committee also pronounced its decision without giving the former commissioner a chance to be heard.

In a new development, The Express Tribune has acquired dissenting notes of two members of the fact-finding committee. The dissenting notes were submitted to the committee by Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner (DC) Anwarul Haq and Additional Commissioner Coordination Muhammad Jahangir.

In the notes, both members denied the allegations levelled by the committee’s convener and incumbent Rawalpindi Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah who had declared the bidding process of Ring Road illegal and tried to establish a connection between the sacked officials and the consultant.

The committee’s report had recommended handing over investigation against ex-commissioner Muhammad Mahmood, former LAC Wasim Tabish, and ex-deputy director project management unit (PMU) to National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The fact-finding panel had termed the land acquisition process illegal and accused the ex-commissioner of purchasing land worth Rs 2.3 billion unnecessarily as well as benefitting eight private housing societies owned by influential people.

Both members who opposed the allegations wrote that there was no illegal activity at any stage of the project.

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They added Ring Road’s alignment was prepared by NESPAK in 2017 but it was not approved while National Highway Authority (NHA) and other organisations had also objected to it.

The officials wrote that in 2021, a new alignment was prepared by Zurich International and these changes were purely technical and did not benefit any society in particular.

The DC said that even the alignment of 2017 was benefitting five to seven housing societies and it was natural that this would happen with some housing societies irrespective of where the road would pass.

He added that after the fresh alignment, no-objection certificates (NOCs) were obtained from all stakeholders while the tenders were advertised after approval of the public-private-partnership (PPP) board.

He suggested forming an expert-level committee to probe into the allegations of kickbacks and rent-seeking.

The third member of the fact-finding committee, ADC Shoaib, in his dissenting note, maintained that the PPP board did not raise any objections to the new alignment prepared by Zurich International.

On the other hand, legal experts have said it is mandatory in such a situation that the probe is required to be carried out again if two out of three members of a fact-finding committee disagree with the findings.

Meanwhile, The Express Tribune made several attempts to contact the convener committee and Rawalpindi Commissioner but failed to raise him despite repeated efforts. Even the commissioner’s spokesperson refused to comment on the issue and said that the commissioner was out.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2021.

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